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Eilean Fhianain

Grave Slab(S) (18th Century)

Site Name Eilean Fhianain

Classification Grave Slab(S) (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Macdonald

Canmore ID 355510

Site Number NM76NE 1.07

NGR NM 75212 68242

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Arisaig And Moidart
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Inverness-shire


Field Visit (September 2017)

A group of three 18th century grave markers is situated on a small patch of level ground close to the cliff-edge, about 12m SE of the mortuary aisle.

(1) The largest is a table monument and measures 2.11m from WSW to ENE by 1.22m transversely and 0.05m thick. It bears a much weathered armorial in relief at its WSW end, flanked by the letters DM (Dignus Memoria?) also in relief. If there was a helm this has been lost through damage, but part of a scroll bearing a motto in a gothic script survives to the right. This appears to have read ‘Per Mare P]er Terras’ – By Sea By Land, the motto of the Clan MacDonald. The escutcheon, which is ornamented with a mantling of swirling festoons and a garland, is divided into four quarters: the first charge is a lion rampant, the second an open hand, the third a salmon naiant (swimming) and the fourth a lymphad (one-masted galley). Below are nine lines of an illegible inscription, beneath which is a decorative panel containing two rows of symbols in relief. The upper row depicts a star, a heart, a trident or a harp, an hourglass and a second star, while the lower line depicts two doves supporting what may be a resurrection scene. A roundel below contains a third star. The right side of the panel has fractured on account of damage occasioned to the NNW edge of the table top, which has resulted in the detachment of two large, conjoining fragments close to the N corner. A drainage hole has been drilled through the centre of the penultimate line of the inscription.

The table top originally rested on six ornamental pillars fitted into shallow recesses. What appears to be the letter V is engraved upon the abacus (uppermost part) of one. The armorial strongly suggests that the grave is that of a MacDonald, while the doves suggest this may be the memorial to a husband and his wife. It is presumably of 18th century date.

(2) Immediately to the NW of this table tomb there is a second 18th century graveslab. Earthfast, it measures 1.88m from WSW to ENE by 0.65m transversely. The upper surface is worn, but exhibits an inscription in Roman capitals located above and below a relief carving of a skeleton (with its head lying to the WSW) contained within a recess measuring 1.02m by 0.42m transversely and 0.02m deep, recalling the outline of a coffin. Two drainage channels, located at right angles midway along each side, permits surface water to disperse from the recess. The principal inscription (which includes ligatures) is thought to reference the initials of the deceased in the first line, before continuing with a quotation from Revelations 14.13, which is derived from the King James version of the Bible. This, however, is divided into two parts positioned above and below the recess:

D MD l Revs . XIII . V . [XIII] l And [I] . [H]eard . A . Voyce l Fr[o]m . Heaven . Saying l Unt[o .] Me [.] Write l Ble[ss]ed [.] Ar[e . Th]e [.] Dead l W[hich .] D[ie .] In [.] The [.] Lord Fr[o]m . H[encef]orth l

[Yea . Sa]yeth [.] The . Spirit l Th[at . The]y . May . Rest l Fr[om . Th]eir . Labours l And . Their . Workes l Doe . Follow . Them

The following appears immediately below the first part of the quotation and although the first word to the left of the recess is illegible, the 'Y' following with the date presumably represents a contraction of 'year'. [. . . [1]701 Y. In addition, two words either side of the skeleton's head and shoulders have been split to allow them to follow the steeply curved outline of the recess: 'M[emento] Mori'.

Charles Macdonald (2011 edn, 23) recorded the tradition that this slab was thought to mark the last resting place of the Rev. Alexander MacDonald (d.c1720-24), the father of the renowned Gaelic poet of the same name, but the date denoted on the stone make this attribution very unlikely. It is possible that the latter refers to the date when the stone was made, rather than when someone died, but such speculation can no more be confirmed than that the ligatured initials in the first line refer to a Donald Macdonald.

(3) Immediately to the SW of the table tomb, there is a third grave slab of 18th century date. This grass-grown rectangular grave slab measures 1.79m from NE to SW by 0.56m transversely. The surface is weathered, but exhibits an inscription in Roman capitals comprised of nine lines:


The date, 1701, is spaced across the top of the stone, with the first and last numerals close to the corners, while the inner pair are closed up and positioned centrally. ML in the second line is ligatured. Although the quotation has been taken from the King James version of the Bible, variations in spelling are exemplified in the words 'Skine', 'Wormes' and 'Sie'. There may have been dots between each word, but this is by no means clear. Below the last line of the inscription is what may be a natural dint measuring 0.17m from NE to SW by 0.13m transversely and 20mm deep.

Visited by HES, Survey and Recording (ATW, GFG) September 2017.


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